Blind driver to debut new technologies at Daytona

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

View results

Anil Lewis, the NFB’s director of strategic communications, trained alongside Riccobono to drive the Escape. He didn’t lose his sight until age 25 when he developed an incurable form of blindness called retinitis pigmentosa. Having learned to drive as a sighted person, he said relearning to drive blind wasn’t a big difference.

“It’s very close to the same kind of learning curve as a sighted person learning to drive,” said Lewis, 46. “You learn different techniques, but as you drive you get more comfortable. … After a while it gets kind of second-nature.”

Riccobono, now the director of the Jernigan Institute, was born with aniridia, a congenital disease in which a person is born without an iris in one or both eyes.

With only 10 percent of normal vision at age 5, he continued to lose vision throughout his childhood. He lost all of the vision in his left eye in the eighth grade. Now 34, he’s also lost most of the vision in his right eye, having only light perception of colors and shapes.

Now, Riccobono will be helping break new technological ground. Though, he admits, preparing society for a true blind driver will be a bigger hurdle.

“Hardly anybody in the world believes a blind person will ever drive,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of work to convince them that we can actually pilot a vehicle that is much more complex and has much more risk. Now we have to convince society that this demonstration is not just a stunt. It’s real. It’s dynamic research that’s doing great things.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks